By Bill Parry
The first-ever International Cultural Festival drew hundreds of spectators to Astoria Park’s Great Lawn Saturday. The free event, created by the Central Astoria Local Development Corp., featured performances native to Mexico, Italy, Japan, Bangladesh, Ecuador, Ireland, Greece and other countries.
“It’s a wonderful thing for each group that makes up our kaleidoscope of people from every part of the world to show their culture to other groups,” Central Astoria LDC Executive Director Marie Torniali said. “Presenting so many cultural traditions on the same stage shows off the best of Astoria.”
In addition to the music and dance, there was face-painting and other activities for children.
“There are over 160 languages spoken in Queens and all of them are spoken right here in Astoria,” City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) said.
He sponsors the event with funding from the City Council’s Cultural Immigrant Initiative.
“I witness the diversity everyday when I walk around Astoria and hear all the different languages and see all the different foods eaten,” Constantinides said. “This festival brings everyone together and encourages connectedness through celebration and we hope to do this every year.”
State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) said, “It’s a way for each of our cultures to introduce themselves to the others. If you look at a display table, there are well over a hundred flags representing each. It’s great to have an organization like Central Astoria LDC that can present an event like this.”
And it’s only the beginning of the programs ahead in Astoria Park all summer long. There is the Astoria Park Carnival June 25-28, the Waterfront Concert Series every Thursday night beginning July 9, Movies on the Waterfront beginning July 27 with a screening of “The Princess Bride” and, of course, Astoria’s very own Independence Celebration June 30.
“We’re very proud of our Independence Celebration fireworks,” Torniali said. “This will be our 35th year with the Grucci Brothers firing them off right over the heads of 15- to 20,000 people. It’s a much more intimate experience than the Macy’s 4th of July fireworks. It brings our entire community together in a perfect family setting right here on the East River with these splendid views.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr